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Is your workplace a health trap? - 13/06/2008

A construction worker using a laptop

Dangerous work environments costly to European workers and companies.

Every three and a half minutes an EU citizen dies from a work-related cause. Although sick leave, accidents and insurance costs are a burden to employers, no price can be set  on the personal suffering or loss of a loved one. And not only are these costs high for employees and their families, there are also the healthcare costs borne by society at large to consider. Europe cannot afford to have millions of workers ill or injured.

Responding to recent alarming statistics, the EU has launched a two-year Europe-wide healthy workplace campaign. Preventing risks is key, says the European agency for safety and health at work (OSHA). Most problems could be avoided with adequate risk assessment in the workplace.

Employers have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their workers. The campaign informs workers, companies and organisations on how to recognise dangers. It encourages small businesses to do their own risk assessment in-house and make prevention plans. The focus is on high-risk fields like construction, healthcare and farming.

The first step is to recognise problems and risk areas – whether materials, equipment or work methods. Workers themselves can help with this. It is also important to recognise who runs the greatest risk in the workplace, typically pregnant women and those with disabilities and health problems, for example.

OSHA gives sound advice: avoid risky situations, replace dangerous methods and materials with safer ones, keep up with technical improvements, train and inform staff and develop a good prevention policy. Companies must understand that investing in safer workplaces, brings financial benefits. Healthy, motivated workers are more productive and boost the competitiveness of European businesses.

Risk assessment – the key to healthy workplaces (OSHA)

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